The Little Death plays to the sketch comedy skill-set of actor/writer/director Josh Lawson and heavily homages Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972). Lawson takes you through the loosely interconnected tales of different people being shameful of the irrational things that get them off in a series of escalating scenarios that climax in dark and devastatingly funny ways.
It’s striking was just how specific The Little Death is to a very insular cul-de-sac of white Australia. In hetero-Suburbia the very thought of open discussion of one's particular sexual proclivity is taboo, and in fact it's kind of the last bastion of the sexually conservative. White, straight Victorian suburbia might just have a heart attack going to red lit sweat dungeon of Candy's nightclub in King's Cross via Gay Mecca Arq or god forbid having access to mine or any one of my friend's browser histories.
The Little Death happens in little tutorials about particular kinks and each story slightly overlaps with each other story. Lawson's caring (bordering on sycophantic) Paul is desperate to please his girlfriend Maeve after she indulges his quaint (by comparison) toe fetish. She has a rape-fantasy and he's both open and willing to fulfil something for her. Despite the darkness associated with attempting its fulfilment with authenticity and somewhat cute frustration that he can't perfect it, as if he didn't find the right brand of tinned tomatoes, makes for the bridge to the other weird and slightly dark desires of the other players. He’s in his 30s, his friends are comfortable to share some of the discussion of these fetishistic desires felt like the most natural and relatable part of the film, outside of the outcome. The segment with Skype deaf translator Monica (Erin James) and deaf illustrator and insomniac Sam (T.J Power) attempting a sex chat interaction is probably the perfect part of the film; it's economy, writing and mix of physical comedy in the confines of a video chat. The darker elements of the film, Phil's (Alan Dukes) sleep fetish with Maureen (Lisa McCune) or Rowena (Kate Box) torturing her partner Richard (Patrick Brammall) because his tears turn her on, are the ones that have you shaking your head in disbelief. Brammall is brilliant, as always, Box is scary great as Rowena and Dukes' Phil reeks of desperation and shame in a way that you almost have to watch him through the gaps in your fingers.
The most fascinating character of the film is Kim Gyngell's Steve, a new addition to the community that encounters each of the characters in every segment of the film to a) introduce himself with gifts (cookies shaped like 'golly-wogs' - which is extremely racist); and b) notify them that he's a registered sex offender. Most of the times that he's coming to introduce himself to the couples it's in the midst of a sexual act, an argument or sheer distraction by 'golly-wog' cookies which makes his confession that he's a sex offender pass by unnoticed. This reviewer's theory is that it's actually a community of the sexually deviant, which is why they don't bat an eye-lid at his introduction.
The Little Death is a cautionary tale to selfishness and sexual conservatism; told with a desire to be cringe-worthy. It's clever, but it knows it.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatmanand listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Director: Josh Lawson
Writer: Josh Lawson
Starring: Bojana Novakovic, Josh Lawson, Damon Herriman, Patrick Brammall, Ben Lawson, Tasneem Roc, Erin James, T.J Power, Lisa McCune, Kate Box, Alan Dukes, Kim Gyngell, Kate Mulvany